Pumpkin Seed Char Salt - Our Kitchen's New Magic Powder


I burn roughly half my batches of roasted pumpkin seeds. And I make them regularly, so you'd think I'd learn. I make them year-round in fact, with pumpkins grown at home; or, if pumpkins aren't in season, seeds from some other hard squash. I burn those too. Because I'm distracted with projects. Last Sunday I burned a batch because I thought I had enough time to clean the chicken coop.

The thing is, we still eat them. Carcinogenic or not, burnt seeds just seem too precious to throw away. But after this week's discovery, I think I'll be burning pumpkin seeds more often. (Okay, they weren't totally black but they were too dark brown for snacking)

Staring at the bowl of semi-charred seeds, I started thinking about how else they could be put to use. Considering humans go through a lot of trouble and expense to get char-grilled meat and veggies, I had the idea to process the seeds into a powder that could serve as a dry rub or seasoning powder. A char-grill cheat for those times when you want the smoky flavor without firing up the grill. 

I already generously season our pumpkin seeds for roasting, so no other seasonings needed to be added to the powder. I simply pulsed the seeds in a blender until I achieved a course powder. I later added salt because I knew I wanted to try this as a seasoning powder for pan seared green beans.

What a revelation it turned out to be! The powder is powerhouse of flavor. A complex balance of nutty, salty, and smoky.

Pan-seared green beans with char salt and lemon zest.

Pan-seared green beans with char salt and lemon zest.

Next I'll be using it as a rub for grilled tofu and I can't wait to try it mixed with panko bread crumbs for a tempura style deep-fry batter. 

Pumpkin Seed Char Salt doesn't really have (or need) a recipe, per se, but here's the step-by-step:

1. Scoop out the seeds from a pumpkin and rinse off any stringy flesh. Drain well. I used seeds from a medium-sized carving pumpkin and ended up with about 1-1/4 cups of char powder.

2. Coat the seeds in your favorite seasoning blend. I use soy sauce, seasoning salt, sea salt, black pepper, Japanese togarashi pepper, garlic powder, and sesame oil.

3. Bake the seeds on parchment at 325 degrees until dark brown. By dark brown I mean darker than you'd like the seeds to be if you were snacking on them, but not completely black. They don't have to burn to develop a charred flavor. As you can see from the photos, the powder is brown rather than black. Unfortunately, in my excitement to try this recipe I forgot to take a picture of the seeds.

4. After baking let the seeds completely cool uncovered so no moisture develops. Then pulse them in a blender or food processor to a course grind.

5. Transfer the powder to a bowl. At this point you can add additional seasoning such as salt to make a nutty seasoning salt. To make my pan-seared green beans, I added a liberal grating of lemon zest to brighten up the dish and it was perfection if I do say so myself.

I can just imagine the Pumpkin Seed Char Salt sprinkled on a Bloody Mary and garnishing butternut squash soup. Or skip the formalities and just eat it with a spoon. 

I for one will be sprinkling it in the kids' Halloween treat bags next week.